Granby Man Says Caregiver Status Is Sufficient
GRAND COUNTY - A medical marijuana caregiver in Grand County plans to sue the county government for $612,400 in damages involving 163 marijuana plants deputies seized Oct. 3.
Robert Love, 42, of Granby and his wife Jeanette filed notice of intent to sue Wednesday.
"They've taken my livelihood away from me," Robert Love said, adding that he's a full-time medical marijuana caregiver.
The Grand County Sheriff's Office reported finding only two caregiver licenses while serving a warrant at the Love residence. But Love says he and his wife are "well within the limits," with documents for 18 primary and more than 20 secondary patients.
Caregivers may grow six marijuana plants - with up to three flowering - - per registered patient, according to Colorado law.
"By destroying these plants, even though they were claimed to be medical marijuana, the Grand County Sheriff's Office has violated the state constitution," according to the claim Breckenridge attorney Sean McAllister filed on behalf of the Loves.
The bust occurred after GCSO deputy Jon Nelsen arrested Love upon pulling him over for speeding on U.S. Highway 40 and finding eight containers of marijuana and marijuana concentrate, which Love appeared to be distributing, according to the GCSO affidavit for his arrest.
Love had produced his seven-days-expired medical registry card for his own personal use of the drug - adding that renewal paperwork was in the mail - but at the time did not have documentation that he was a caregiver, according to the affidavit.
Love's arrest and a subsequent interrogation led the deputy to obtain a search warrant for Love's rented home.
At the residence, the deputy located two caregiver licenses issued to Love and his wife. For that reason, Grand County deputies seized 163 plants but left about 12 due to the licenses, according to the affidavit.
Love told the Summit Daily he couldn't help deputies locate documents proving his caregiver status because he was under arrest while the raid occurred.
"What it boils down to is poor bookkeeping," Love said. "I didn't have the files together like I should have."
He said his wife tried to find the documents but was ultimately made to stand outside in 30-degree weather with their 9- and 12-year-old children.
The GCSO affidavit states that while Love was being interviewed after Miranda advisement, he said the number of plants at his operation might have exceeded the patient-based limit.
Love was charged with possession of more than 8 ounces of marijuana among 13 charges including speeding, lack of proof of insurance and violation of protection order ( for possessing marijuana without registration ) and bond condition, unlawful cultivation of marijuana, unlawful possession of narcotics, and intent to distribute with a prior conviction, according to the affidavit.
The report also states that Vicodin, a schedule II narcotic, and Valium, a schedule IV narcotic, were also seized from the home.
Grand County Sheriff Rodney Johnson said Friday that his office since the raid had not received any documents verifying Love's caregiver status.
McAllister said proof of the status is to be provided to the 12th Judicial District Attorney's office.
"The point is you don't get to destroy the plants first and ask questions later," he said.
Tough choices for law enforcement Summit County Sheriff's Office has struggled with obstacles toward verifying a caregiver's authenticity but has been cautious to avoid lawsuits.
In one instance, Summit deputies responded to a call regarding a man growing a few plants. He hadn't received final approval for the state marijuana registry but had procured a physician's referral and submitted an application.
The plants were taken to the sheriff's office where they were watered and kept alive until the man's status was confirmed. Summit Sheriff John Minor has said that with individual plants valued as much as $5,000 in civil court cases, the plants were preserved to prevent a potential lawsuit.
About 70 percent of SCSO raids on grow operations turn out to be for people in compliance with state law.
Summit deputies have busted caregivers who are not in full compliance, such as for selling marijuana to undercover officers without registration.
What's next Attorney Sean McAllister said the situation between Love and Grand County isn't unusual in Colorado, but that similar lawsuits often end with dismissal, plea bargains or other means.
"If we went to trial it would be the first case of government paying for damage to medical marijuana," McAllister said.
With proceedings under way for the criminal charges, McAllister says the lawsuit may not be filed for six months.
"I'm not doing this as a tool to motivate a better plea bargain," he said, adding that the intent is to show "that they can't be so cavalier with medical marijuana."
According to the notice, the estimated value per plant seized is $5,200. Love also seeks reimbursement for other personal items "seized or destroyed by the Grand County Sheriff's Office during the raid," states the notice of lawsuit dated Nov. 11.
The notice says it was sent to the Grand County sheriff, the Grand County attorney, district attorney, the commissioners and the Colorado Attorney General's Office via registered mail Wednesday.
Grand County Attorney Jack DiCola confirmed that the county had received the notice of lawsuit, though he noted that such notices often do not result in the filing of actual lawsuits.
Sky-Hi Daily News contributed to this report.
November 15, 2009
Summit Daily News
Suspect in pot bust to sue Grand County after losing 163 plants